« AnteriorContinuar »
gent, and Hawkins, as original members. Garrick did not return from abroad until a year and a half later, and with such friends, might fairly claim admission-at least as well as Hawkins, or Chamier. When no proposal was made, he began to be a little restless and fidgety, would stop at Hawkins's on his way to Hampton, and ply him with questions,-Had he been at the club last night ?-Did they talk of him?-Was Johnson there?-Now, did he say that Davy was a pleasant fellow enough in his way, but no poet or scholar?*
When he first heard of the plan, Garrick said, "I like the notion. I think I shall be of you." A foolish speech, but not an unnatural one. It was scarcely prudent of the placid and friendly Sir Joshua, to repeat it—" He'll be of us!" roared Johnson, delighted to have him on the hip. "How does he know we will permit him?— the first duke in England has no right to hold such language." This was his tone to Reynolds. To Hawkins, who was willing to admit Garrick, he objected, "he will disturb us by his buffoonery." And finally, when Mrs. Thrale started the subject, he broke out with: "If Garrick does apply, I'll blackball him. Surely one ought to sit in a society like ours,
Unelbowed by gamester, pimp, or player."
Here are three distinct significations of hostility, addressed to three distinct witnesses. Hawkins adds, that he so contrived matters, that the actor was never formally proposed, and by consequence, never admitted.
Sir John Hawkins-almost as entertaining in his way as Boswell-took these inquiries very seriously-was quite "vexed,"-and lectured Garrick solemnly on his curiosity.
In this he is a little mistaken: Garrick's admission did not take place for eight or nine years, and it is not uncharitable to suppose, that Johnson's opposition and influence, was at the bottom of this long postponement. The whole chapter of this unworthy hostility must be a shock to all admirers. Johnson's behaviour to him was uniformly unkind. Το him Garrick was as uniformly gentle. Boswell, reporting his "vanity" and Johnson's "envy," said the actor "was always jealous that Johnson spoke lightly of him." Hawkins adds, that Garrick used to complain that Johnson was capricious in his friendship, and, as he termed it, coquettish in his display of it; and when Boswell good-naturedly reported to him some little praise by Johnson of his knack of writing prologues, Garrick could not conceal his delight and joy at the unexpected encomium. Stockdale, the foolish clergyman, brought tears into his eyes, by reporting to him a poor compliment of Johnson's. These are trifles: but they show a surprising evenness and sweetness, a kindly and simple nature -an amiable return for such behaviour. When Garrick would give a good-humoured imitation of his friend, even here he showed his anxiety as to this one matter. Taking him off, he would make him say, "Davy has some convivial pleasantry about him, but is a futile fellow." In return, Johnson, after coming from behind the scenes, would tell his friends, “I met Davy behind the scenes last night, dressed for his part. I was glad to see him, but I believe he was ashamed to see me." Johnson repeated this story, in various shapes. It was when Garrick was dressed for Scrub, or Drugger, and I
think we can see in it, a harmless delicacy—a wish not to disturb the more dignified image of his histrionic self, which he wished to rest in the mind of the friend he so respected that of Lear or Richard. Indeed, the presence of Johnson could have been no welcome addition behind the scenes. When every eye in front, is wet with tears at the sorrows of Lear, and even Clive, at the wing, is sobbing out, "d-n him, he can act a gridiron!" the great actor is disturbed by the loud voices of Murphy and Johnson, laughing and talking over something else. As he comes off, he remonstrates gently, and tells Johnson he distracts his feelings. "Pshaw! sir," says Johnson, coarsely, "Punch has no feelings!"*
This to the manager, before the other players, and from a friend, was unkind. The speech was recollected, repeated, and enjoyed. Wilkes, repeating the stupid slander of stinginess, said, in Johnson's presence, that Garrick "would play Scrub to the end of his life;" then, brought on a discussion, which extracted from Johnson an admission that Garrick
* Johnson, though he had a contempt for players, did excellent justice to his acting. "Who can repeat Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be, or not to be,' as Garrick does it?" said Boswell, foolishly, and with that wrongly placed praise which so nearly depreciates. "Anybody may," said Johnson. "Jemmy, there, 'a child,' will do it as well in a week. Garrick was no declaimer; yet he was the only actor I ever saw whom I could call a master both in tragedy and in comedy; though I believe him best in comedy. A true conception of character, and natural expression of it, were his distinguishing excellences." This was his real excellence, and not the poor recitation of "To be or not to be,”—perhaps his weakest part.
+ Garrick and his associations were always, by some fatality, unpleasant for Johnson. Thus, when Walmesley's old letters of introduction to Colson, now nearly forty years old, came to light, having been carefully treasured by Abraham Newling, Steevens wrote to Garrick, "If I had called, as I sometimes do, on Dr. Johnson, and showed him one of these, where he is mentioned as one Johnson, I should have risked, perhaps, the chance of one of his ghastly smiles."
gave away more money than any man in England. But others were then attacking, which was sufficient to make him anyone's champion. We can put no confidence in his acceptance of Boswell's excuse, of his allowing no one to abuse Garrick but himself, which could be refuted by many instances.* After a fine panegyric on Garrick's liberality, and his wonderful self-restraint under the tempest of praise "dashed in his face"-" Sir, a liberal man; a little vanity, indeed; but he has shown that money is not his first object," he might seem liberal. Yet, when Boswell quotes Foote's stupid jest about his going out with an intention to be generous, and its all vanishing in the street at the ghost of a halfpenny candle, Johnson agrees complacently, "That is very true, sir. No man ever so much depended on the humour of the moment." It would be far more true to say, that it was not on the humour of the moment that he was generous, that he reflected, and perhaps wrote a letter ; and thus, his benevolence was measured, and infinitely superior to the mere charity of impulse. No "ghost of a halfpenny candle" had come between Foote and his kind assistance. "The humour of the moment.” No. It was a humour that lasted all his life-a humour not by any means of the moment: as most applications for money came to him by letter, he had time to deliberate. We can mark every year of his life by a series of generous actions and of thoughtful aid.
*The kindly Reynolds made this excuse for him, that Johnson considered Garrick as his property, and would allow no one to attack or praise him without contradiction. He wrote the two well-known dialogues in Johnson's manner to show this.
The reader will recall one instance at least where, too, Foote actually complained that the money was not given at once, so that Garrick had time to reflect.
From the same hostile quarter came the grudging testimony, that he was the first man in the world for sprightly conversation, though he thought that conversation light. Even after the actor's death, as will be seen, his encomiums were conventional and ill-applied. What were Garrick's real faults, escaped him, and it was reserved for Goldsmith's nicer observation to hit off those social histrionics, the blemish of Garrick's life. "He had friends, sir," Johnson said, after the actor had passed away, "but no friend. He was too much diffused. He found people always ready to applaud him, and for the same thing, and so saw life with great uniformity"—a distinction not very intelligible. He ought, at least, to have found one friend in his own schoolfellow and companion-whose foolish plans-the school, and the play-he had helped, to the best of his power.*
And yet, after all, it almost seems as if Garrick's regard and affection for him, are his best extenuation. We know what a struggle was always going on in that fine, strong, powerful nature-how Johnson prayed and wrestled with himself and the meaner passions, which so often overpowered him. Sometimes, therefore, in dealing with Garrick, the generous feeling prevailed, and he did him more than justice; but the next moment he was thinking of the success, and of Gar
Even in trifles we see instances of Garrick's thoughtful kindness. Boswell and Johnson pay a visit down at Lichfield. Johnson was scarcely at home there; but a letter arrives to Peter Garrick, enjoining him to pay every attention to the visitors. Johnson's hostility was persistent. It turns up in every direction. When a great honor was paid to Garrick in being sent for to read for the King, Johnson chuckled over the coldness which the Royal host had shown at the entertainment. He dwelt on Garrick's mystification and disappointment-then went off in the old stock charge-avarice and love of praise.-D'Arblay's Diary.